Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Heavenly Court of Madame Fantaisiste - "Relational Performance"

Urban Angels will be celebrating the success of the "Environments for Encounters" a research project instigated by Leeds University and Leeds Metropolitan University with a dissemination event on 9th  September 2011. Urban Angels were brought in as industry practitioners (see my blog "Trapeze Artists Dons Clever Clogs") to make a piece of performance work for contemporary music festivals. As an aerial company, (trapeze and other phyisical performance that takes place off the ground) with twenty years experience in outdoor theatre, this is precisely the type of work we love and were delighted to be involved. It gave me the opportunity to work with two of my favourite physical performers/contemporary clowns Alice Robinson and Matt Rogers and one the academics is also a live artist - so Dr Rebekka Kill fused "practice" and "research"  - "praxis". Dr Alice O'Grady headed the whole project and lead the research.

We took a piece of outdoor performance  - "Relational Performance" to Kendal Calling and Bestival in 2010 and Cactus Festival, Bruges 2011. The research was to compare the different ways that we performed in these contrasting festivals or "Environments for Encounters" and the differences in the responses from the festival goers.

So what is Relational Performance? Well it requires a good deal direct engagement between the festival goers and the performers to make it happen. We began to describe the festival goers who were interacting as "participants" and as the project developed, because we were adament that we did not want to turn our contributors into victims as can occcur in traditional street theatre - they became known as "guests".  It was really really important that the guests have an interesting, bizarre, perhaps confounding or simply fabulous time. The thought that experience should be an extension of the festival feeling.

So we thought about the festival experience and it that can vacilate between ecstactic joy and grim (muddy) hell.This premise evolved:

The Heavenly Court of Madame Fantaisiste - The Back Story
Our mistress, the fabulous Madame Fantaisiste vanished in 1660 around the time King Charles was restored to the throne We, her court favourites have been scouring the world for her ever since. Perhaps she lost favour with the court? Political intrique? Love? Skullduggery?

We transformed a circular aerial rig into an oppulent, sumptuous "Heavenly Court" and compared our relational work at the three incredibly different festivals. Anyone interested in festival performance or research might be able to attend the dissemination event which will be held at Leeds University on 9th September 2011. Please email me at for further information.


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